Thanks to a few decades working with Phil Mickelson (and getting all the screen time that assignment entails), Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay became one of the rare caddies to become more of a household than some of the players on Tour.
After he and Phil parted ways in 2017, Mackay joined NBC Sports to work as an on-course reporter for NBC and Golf Channel broadcasts, quickly becoming one of the best in the business. That certainly makes sense; a caddie has to be able to assess a player’s situation and relay that information quickly, skills that are just as vital for broadcasters in Mackay’s role. Between that skillset and Mackay’s decades of stories and connections in the sport, his presence and insights were always welcome. (Bones also helped give us this amazing moment, when Johnny Miller brutally shut down a light Phil story.)
Mackay did return to caddying a few times since, with substitute stints on the bag of Justin Thomas in 2018 and 2020. Today, Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard reported that Bones is leaving the booth behind, returning to full-time loop life with Thomas.
Via Golf Channel:
After four years as an on-course reporter for NBC Sports and Golf Channel, Jim “Bones” Mackay will transition back to his original career as a caddie for Justin Thomas.
“It came out of left field very recently. I have just tremendous respect for [Thomas] as a person and a player,” Mackay told Golf Channel on Thursday. “It was an incredible phone call to get and I said yes.”
“I love to caddie and I loved my role with NBC/Golf Channel,” Mackay said, “but it’s Justin Thomas.”
Mackay’s point is a solid one; Thomas is 28 and the #6 player in the world. Considering the work duties and travel load of a course reporter and caddie aren’t entirely dissimilar, there’s also the financial aspect to consider; while NBC certainly wasn’t paying Bones nothing, Thomas earned $6.5 million on the course in 2021. Cut that down into percentages usually earned by caddies (it varies by player and depends on weekly result, but anywhere between 5% and 10% of earnings is standard) and you can see how the move might be appealing in that way.
Anyone who watched his legendary analytical discussions with Phil over the years, though, knows that Bones truly does care about the competition. Caddies play a unique role in sports, and Mackay is one of the best to ever do the job. They’re not hitting the shots, but they’re part of winning in their own way.
And while Hoggard notes that Mackay will still do some work for NBC/Golf Channel when his schedule allows, viewers are essentially losing an excellent analyst.
Golf coverage needs more of those, not fewer.